King Do – The story of a generation

I don’t know how to cook crack. My whole knowledge about that crack thing comes first from Biggie’s 10 crack commandments and second from Freakonomics, a book by Steven Levitt (economist at the University of Chicago) and the journalist Stephen Dubner. Just for my defense, I read that book in my second undergrad year by recommendation of my then-marketing professor who even lent me his own exemplar of the book back then. I’ve listened to a lot of rappers saying a lot of things about crack cooking and selling, I can deliver Biggie’s 10 commandments right off the top of my head, I read and re-read Freakonomics, I even re-re-read the chapter on crack, but still, I don’t know much about that crack business. However, as a 13-years-old kid, I’ve got to know what you need to counterfeit bank notes and also how to trick people with that fake money. That’s was just general knowledge in the environment I grew up in. If you would have asked me for different uses of quicksilver, I would have said that it is used to make fake money. Sure. Maybe after that I would have also told you that it’s also used in thermometers. Maybe. The first school I attended, École Publique de Djemoun, was actually situated less than 200 meters from Koagne Donatien’s home. If you don’t know who this guy is, ask Dominique Malaquais, a senior researcher at the Centre d’Etudes des Mondes Africains, and she will tell you that he was “Cameroon’s most notorious gangster” at that time. So if Game grew up around “Impala’s and drug lords, then I grew up around pouss-pouss and feymen. Welcome to Bafoussam, maize fields and bazar markets. All we know is running businesses and paying respect to martyrs like Ernest Ouandié.

This is about “King Do” aka Koagne Donatien, a son of Bafoussam and the greatest African gangster of all time, maybe even the only one qualifying for the title of African gangster. Feel free to prove me wrong.

Koagne Donatien was a feyman. He was called “King Donatien” since he used to present himself in foreign countries as the King of Cameroon. Of course, he got the necessary bunch of gold and other royal attires he needed to impress and convince others that he was the king of a country of more than 10 million inhabitants. By definition, a feyman is someone who makes a living by conning other out of their money by promising them even more money. Impress, con some money, impress even more and con even some more money… That could be the feyman’s business cycle. If you are familiar with the Cameroon of the late 1990s, you will certainly acknowledge that they were a lot, really a lot of feymen around. The question is therefore why Koagne Donatien is a particular case.

Koagne Donatien is THE feyman. Several media report that he was on the wanted list of many secret services (French and Israeli, for example). According to the French newspaper Libération, the French Secret Service even planned an operation called “Opération Jardin d’Eden” to free him from the prison where he was held in Yemen. King Do established the feymania as an alternative career for a whole generation. He did it with a great mastery of reputation management. I wonder which genius was his Public Relations’ officer. Some of his greatest PR coups are the gift of 10 million Franc CFA to the national football team during the coup de Coeur for the World Cup 1994, the disclosure of his link to Nelson Mandela, and of course the landing on the old Bafoussam airport with a private jet. I still have vivid memories of that day King Do came to the city with the private jet. I was out with my friends watching the plane flying around the city till we all had neck ache. Oh, I almost forgot, as president he granted our local football team, Racing Club de Bafoussam, its golden years. During that time, we proudly called Racing by the nickname TPO (Tout Puissant de l’Ouest). My sister just told me last weekend that Racing is now playing at the Ligue-level (3rd division), well, that still TPO, Tout Pourri de l’Ouest. Long gone the days we were singing “ooh Racing oh, pa má nyanga! Racing oh, pa má nyanga!”*

The PR campaign was so successful that even today the feymania industry doesn’t seem to lack new blood. I have to say here that the recruitment processes of the feymania are similar to those of the crack industry as described in the book Freakonomics I mentioned at the beginning. Feymen are still out there doing their thing. So you will hang out with them in Berlin or Paris if you visit certain venues. Even when I was living in Shanghai I met some feymen operating in the Far East. However, that isn’t really surprising since the feymania has always been a multinational venture.

Yes, Koagne Donatien played a major role in shaping our social construction of the feyman. But why do I write about him? Three simple reasons explain that. First, in recent discussions with friends, I have come to defend myself because I use to say that Koagne Donatien is certainly one of the most important personalities of Cameroon’s popular culture, at least of the past decades. Second, thanks to that Bayangi Boy named Stanley Enow, Bafoussam is currently enjoying a kind of hype and that’s pretty rare. So I write those lines first to defend myself and second just to keep you talking about my hometown. Bafoussam père!

The third reason is the most important one. King Do’s story needs to be told because it is the story of a generation. From Bamendzi in Bafoussam to New Bell in Douala, he inspired a generation dreaming of easy cash, champagne, big cars, and even private jet. During a phone conversation a couple of weeks ago with a friend, we both agreed that one of the pillars of African emancipation is the construction of an African collective imaginary. Pop culture is in our today’s context one of the most important means of building such an imaginary. Most of us do know about Frank Lucas, Al Capone, Pablo Escobar, or even Jacques Mesrimes. So, we ought to let them know about King Do. The Togolese author Sami Tchak already started working in that direction in his last roman “Al Capone le Malien”, which is partly inspired by King Do’s life. If I am to celebrate a gangster, then I rather celebrate one from my hood. A call to all the (African) folks in the movie business, make a movie about King Do, or I will find the capital and do it before you! If you need help with the screen play, just holla back! There are so many fascinating facets to be covered, for instance the relations between the devaluation and the subsequent economic crisis and the rise of the feymania, feymen and politics etc…

Cam’ron once said he’s from where Nicky Barnes (the heroin’s Teflon Don) “got rich as fuck”. Okay, well, I am from where King Do set up to rule the world. Nicky Barnes, Lucky Luciano, or even Frank Lucas, they all ended up cooperating with the prosecutors. Well, we all know what the same Cam’ron thinks of snitchers (by the way, it’s related to Biggie’s 9th commandment). As far as we know, King Do never snitched. Now, you tell me who is the hardest and realest, Harlem or Bafoussam? Easy question, isn’t it? Bafoussam don’t snitch. #AfricanGangster

To those ready to denounce that I am making the apology of the crime. I see you there, right at the corner waiting for me. Now I come to you and I count two bullets in my gun. First, even if since high school times they told me “seul le crime paie”, I still believe that education is the best path to follow. Of course, I am biased since I would be jobless if education were worthless. To be honest, I feel really dumb writing the next sentence, but let me be dumb: By no means I intend to make any apologies of illegal ways of getting to riches. I approach this topic as a social critique doing nothing more that casting a light on people and events which marked their time. Koagne Donatien remarkably marked not only his time but also a whole generation. No doubt. That’s been said, get ready for the second bullet. It’s the hard-hitting one: Si tu kiffes pas, tu lis pas et puis c’est tout. Now, if some of you still want to say that I’m making the apology of the crime, it’s your choice. But anyway, I don’t really care because I’ve been quite a bad guy since dad’s gone. And I don’t even beg for mercy. Bafoussam, we go hard.


P.S. for the NSA and any other law enforcements authorities: Don’t ask me to name the feymen I hanged out with in China or Europe. This story, like all other stuff to be found around here, is a pure product of my imagination. Welcome to the Matrix.

* “ooh Racing oh, pa má nyanga! Racing oh, pa má nyanga!”: A football chant sung by the Racing’s fans. Possible translation: ooh Racing oh, don’t let me down! Racing oh, don’t let me down!

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